Some of those Bubbas might still be here today if they had had friends like the “Rocket City Rednecks.”
Zac and I tuned in when this reality show debuted on the National Geographic Channel on Sept. 28. We were instantly hooked.
In the first episode, the gang from Huntsville bomb-proofed a truck with beer cans. Then they launched a rocket using moonshine as fuel.
Next, they turned spare parts into an “Iron Man” suit and a submarine.
Last week, they simulated a mission to Mars in a camper and developed a game plan for defending the Earth from comets (or in their case, watermelons).
No rednecks were harmed during the filming of these stunts. Their motto is “Safety third.”
For the record, their first and second rules are also related to safety.
In some ways, the “Rocket City Rednecks” are stereotypical Southerners.
They have heavy accents. Their wardrobe consists mostly of flannel, camouflage, blue jeans and overalls. They drink beer and own guns. One of them lives in a trailer.
They are also super smart.
Travis Taylor, the ringleader, is a rocket scientist who works at Redstone Arsenal. He has five degrees and is currently working on his second Ph.D.
Taylor’s dad, Charles, worked with Dr. Wernher von Braun on some of the first U.S. satellites.
Rog Jones, Taylor’s best friend since the sixth grade, has a genius IQ.
Taylor’s brother-in-law, “Pistol Pete” Erbach, has three physics degrees and designs high-tech systems for the defense industry.
Michael, Taylor’s nephew and the youngest of the bunch, built a motorized shopping cart when he was 16.
Some people are going to view the “Rocket City Rednecks” as a disgrace to the great state of Alabama. However, I think they could teach all of us a lot.
The show itself is an opportunity to celebrate our historical and current ties to the space program.
The stars’ academic and professional credentials are a sign to the rest of the nation that Alabamians can read and count past our eight fingers and 12 toes.
The cast should also earn the respect of rednecks who believe that eggheads may be book smart but don’t know their behinds from a hole in the ground.
I usually associate science with the boring material that was drilled into me repeatedly in school. Writing “energy is the ability to do work” as many times as I did over the years should be a punishment for hardened criminals.
The “Rocket City Rednecks” make science look cool. They have the potential to inspire some kids who now foresee a dead-end job in their future but who one day might be the first Americans to step on Mars.
What I love most about them, though, is that they don’t take themselves too seriously and are not ashamed of who they are.
In every interview I have read by Taylor, he makes a point of saying that there is no reason the term “redneck” should be an insult.
“There was a time when (redneck) referred to hardworking, self-sufficient farmers whose necks would sunburn while working in the fields. Those farmers had to be smart and had to solve problems with just what they had on hand,” Taylor told The Huntsville Times.
I hope this show convinces at least a few viewers that rednecks aren’t bad people. To quote one of my favorite movies, they do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community.
Although I’m not as countrified as some, I certainly don’t belong in sophisticated society either.
But I don’t worry about it too much. We’re all red on the inside.